Disruptors. They are the few and the fierce. In our series, Leading between the Lines, I have the opportunity, and the pleasure, of meeting with some of South Florida’s most dynamic female business leaders, ones who are disrupting their industry, approaching things in a new way, solving new problems, and effectively pushing the status quo into a new frontier. I want to know what it really takes, what they’re actually up against, and how it feels each step along the way. Meet Monique “Mo” Corker, the Florida External Affairs Market Manager for Comerica Bank.
In her role, Corker oversees the community development needs within the Florida market which includes making community investments, providing financial literacy education, building and sustaining community outreach relationships, and coordinating community service opportunities both internally and externally. She serves the Broward, Collier and Palm Beach counties. With more than 19 years of experience in the banking and mortgage industry, Corker leads the financial education initiatives, both personal and business, in this footprint, specifically for low- to moderate income communities.
Corker’s civic and community involvement includes her serving on the board of directors for The Urban League of Palm Beach County, Aging and Disability Resource Center of Broward County, Handling Risky Business, Accion East, Suits for Seniors, Junior Achievement of South Florida, the TED Center (Center for Technology, Enterprise and Development), and Girls Coordinating Council of Broward.
She also is the founder of Girl Bee You, a nonprofit that equips girls with economic and educational life skills with a goal of empowering young girls to be the best version of themselves. Read the full interview for Mo’s journey.
Nicole: What motivated you to get into banking?
Mo: 20 years ago, my focus was on finding a decent paying career without having a higher education as I had to provide for my children. I worked so well with people, so I decided to apply for a credit union position in a call center. I figured I could use the one thing I knew I was blessed with and that was my communication skills. I just knew that I needed stability and hoped I made the right decision.
Nicole: What has been your proudest achievement? Why?
Mo: My proudest moment has always been becoming a wife and life partner to my husband, Derrick, and being a mom to my two children, Devon and Destiny. I always wanted what I didn’t have growing up and that was a family that stuck together to build not only a legacy, but generational wealth. I must say our family is doing just this as we continue to give back to the community through our philanthropic efforts and job creation with our family’s trucking company.
Nicole: What have been some of your failures and challenges along the way? What have you learned from them and what have you most improved on?
Mo: One of my biggest challenges has been acknowledging and believing in my own worth. I struggled for some time because I didn’t feel worthy of my accomplishments. I didn’t even know how to just accept a compliment. I have now learned to embrace the compliments and praise because I am worthy of someone acknowledging my hard work and passion for the community and youth development. I have elevated my mindset to not only receive the positive feedback from others but return that same energy to someone else to keep the positive vibes flowing.
Nicole: What has surprised you most on this journey?
Mo: That I would be seen as a community connector and advocate -- a resource with a platform to influence and empower others. I always dreamed it but never thought it could happen. The surprise is that the saying is true: you can actually be anything you want to be if only you believe in yourself.
Nicole: What scares you? How have you addressed it?
Mo: With power and platform comes a lot of pressure. As I build my public profile, I’m afraid of making a mistake. There is so much pressure to be perfect that it can distract others from seeing the good. I remind myself that I’m human and come from a place of deep transparency to create the space for others to be authentic and accepting of their mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and facing adversity makes us stronger and better.
Nicole: What influences and inspires you?
Mo: The youth inspire me because I see so much potential in them that they have yet to recognize in themselves. I am inspired by them because they are showing up and showing out despite what any statistics have to say about millennials and Gen Z. They are showing what true innovation is and I want to be attached to their growth as a supporter and a lifetime learner as well.
Nicole: What is a common challenge that our community faces, and how do you address it head on?
Mo: A common challenge that our community faces is a lack of resources as it relates to access to financial education, business development opportunities and capital, as well as the keys to homeownership. In my role as an External Affairs Market Manager, I work with community partners to provide resources on behalf of the bank to help nonprofit organizations fulfill their primary purpose and mission.
Nicole: What is the one thing you want more people to understand when it comes to financial freedom and financial literacy?
Mo: A big challenge is that financial education is expected to be taught at home and often it’s not- or not completely. And then many parents think it’s being taught at school but often that’s not the case either.
“Globally, 60% of all people hold an account, and only about 38% of them are financially literate. These financial illiteracy statistics show that 62% of account holders don’t have relevant money-handling knowledge. In advanced economies, over 95% of individuals have bank accounts, and 57% of those are financially educated. In emerging economies, about 70% are account holders, and about 35% have money managing skills.” (S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)
There is so much more to financial freedom then just opening a bank account, transactions, and savings. So, who’s supposed to teach it? That is where I step up.
Nicole: What can we do to break the cycle? What can we do to improve financial literacy for ourselves and our families?
Mo: Have conversation about money and finances early and often in life. This can help young people to become proactive versus reactive. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between young people who are introduced to basic financial principles and taught how to manage their money at an early age and their future success.
Although financial education will not solve every economic challenge, it can help develop positive habits and a healthy relationship with money that will lead to better decision-making and fewer financial pitfalls.
Nicole: What does the future of banking look like?
Mo: Banking is changing as it is becoming more digital, more convenient, and more accessible. Access to financial education and resources has been a true barrier to economic freedom. At Comerica, we identify outlets to reach and teach the communities we serve. We are most effective when we strategically align with community-based organizations that are already doing the work.
Nicole: What are your goals currently? What is next on the horizon for Comerica?
Mo: Our goals are to continue to raise the standards and expectations for how a bank should serve its community. And we do this by being an evolving resource. We are continuously innovating and responding to the needs of the community.
Nicole: What advice would you give to young professionals as they embark on their career?
Mo: You must have a heart for community, desire to work hard and be determined to help others to be the best version of themselves. You must be a strong networker and community advocate because community development is necessary to help change the trajectory of lives- including yours.